How I Fell Into Debt and God Got me Out
I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
I don’t know why this even sticks out in my mind, but I remember riding with my dad to play with his company softball team. On the way Dad up and decided to swing into Wal-Mart and buy a new softball glove. It sticks out in my mind, because at the time I could not just swing by and buy anything! I was on a budget. Things were tight, but I was not in debt-yet. My salary as meager as it was did not land me in debt. Looking back it was a thought process that led me into debt. Let me break it down for you.
I am just as good as everyone else, so I deserve what everyone else has.
I got tired of watching friends buy new cars I could not afford, so I finally got my parents to cosign for me to buy a brand new Subaru Justy with no radio or air conditioning. It was the cheapest new car I could afford and for some reason I thought I had to have a new car because all my friends were buying new cars at the time. Later after making several payments I had a dream I had my old car back, which was old and used but paid for when I had it. While I thought I deserved what my friends had, I failed to realize that things don’t determine your self worth. I also forgot the homeless man sleeping in the alley was just as good as I am. Coveting instead of being thankful led me into debt. The richest person is not the one who has the most. Its the one who needs the least.
2. There is no way I can max out this credit card!
I was in my late twenties by the time I got a major credit card. Now I could get whatever I needed whenever I needed it. It came with a credit limit of $5,000.00. My friends told me to be careful and not max it out. The interest rate was high. I told them there is no way I could max this card out! It has a $5,000.00 limit. I will never reach that! Before the year was over it was maxed out. I was drowning in debt because I was living like I was rich. I finally realized rich people are rich because they live like they are poor. Poor people are poor because they live like they are rich. There are exceptions I know. But it applied to me. If only I had realized my self worth did not come from what I could buy.
3. I Didn’t Realize its Okay to say I Don’t Have Money.
During this time I studied the Bible with a couple my age and we quickly became good friends. I would call them and ask them to go out to eat with me, and occasionally they would say something that I did not know was even possible to say. They would say, “We don’t have the money right now.” I was too embarrassed to say such a thing, but when they said it they were not embarrassed at all. How could that be? Instead when they said it they sounded strong, like they had self-control. Remember the whole reason I got my credit card was so that I could get whatever I needed whenever I needed it. No reason to say I don’t have money when you have a credit card right? Wrong! Too late in life I learned if I can’t afford it I don’t need it. When I would fall behind on bills I was afraid my phone would be cut off. Meanwhile I had friends who’s phones did get cut off. To my amazement and astonishment their lives went on. Yup. If you can’t afford it you don’t need it. Its amazing all the things we think we need that we really don’t!
4. When Using a Credit Card you Still Have to pay for it!
Okay after I share how stupid my thinking was here, you are going to wonder how I was ever smart enough to land a job, and you are going to totally understand why I am still single and no one wants to marry me! Believe it or not I would be in a department store getting something I needed, and I would literally ask myself, yes these are the exact words that would go through my numb skull brain, “Do I want to pay for it or just put it on the credit card?” What and idiot! I was going to pay for it either way! And with interest rates, by putting it on the card I paid for things four times over! Now I know you are not that stupid. But if there is just one person out there just as stupid as me then I hope this saves them from making the same mistake I did. If you save for something and pay cash its all interest free. Why not wait a little while and pay for it once, instead of getting it now and paying for it four times over later? Some things were worn out that I was still paying on!
So there I was drowning in debt, unable to afford things I needed today, because I was till paying interest on things I bought long ago. Here is the kicker. When you are in debt your money is not your own. It does not belong to you. You owe it to someone else. So I was not even donating my own money to the church. It was money that belonged to the credit companies. Let that sink in. If I owed $15,000.00 and got paid $2000.00 a month then each month my money belonged to the credit companies. The money I was spending for food and clothes and even giving to the church was not my own money. My $2,000.00 check did not belong to me. I had already spent that check seven times! Did I still owe tithe? Of course! But I was paying it with borrowed money. That is not returning tithe! That is giving God money you borrowed from somewhere else!
I was in a mess and it was my own stupid fault! Thankfully I serve a God who loves and rescues the most stupid of people!
I often felt I would never get out of debt. I considered bankruptcy. After paying for things four times over I considered writing my creditors and telling them I was not paying anymore and they could just send me to jail if they wanted. I considered changing my identity and moving to New Zealand to start a new debt free life, but my credit cards were all maxed out and I couldn’t get a ticket. I literally had no money, as all the money I possessed I owed to other people. Instead of saving or paying anything forward all I was doing was paying things back. I was living a lie as the money I had wasn’t really mine. I was desperate.
Then I read that God creates miracles to help people repay their debts.
But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.” So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float. Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it. 2 Kings 6:5-7 NKJV
I was praying for a miracle. My parents had instilled in me the importance of returning my tithe, and I continued tithing even though even the money I was tithing was not my own. Or at least it was not returning the first fruits as my entire paycheck had already been spent before I even earned it. I forgave all my debtors hoping some of my debts would be forgiven as well. I greatly curbed my spending and as much as I could stopped using my credit cards. Then after over 20 years of credit card debt the miracle came.
I started 2015 with $10,000.00 in credit card debt. I was working for the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church as I had been for the last eleven years. They had been paying me a very decent salary (More than any of my other Bible Worker friends) and it would have been even better had I not been in debt. After eleven years the church could no longer handle the burden of my salary and benefits. They informed me I would be let go the last of April. Little did I know this was the beginning of the miracle that would get me out of debt!
The church gave me plenty of warning, so before my last day at Tampa First I had plenty of time to set up my own ministry through the Plant City SDA Church, where I would continue doing Bible Work in the Tampa Bay area and beyond, based solely on contributions from people supporting my ministry. I also got a part time job at Florida Hospital. Here God was already performing miracles. I have heard of people losing their jobs and going months without a paycheck. Well I don’t know why God was so good to me, but I actually received paychecks from my new jobs before I received my last paycheck from Tampa First! Also Tampa First gave me a very generous severance check. After tithing I used a portion of the severance check to help a friend pay off their child’s church school bill. The rest I applied to my credit card debt.
A golf buddy called and needed my help on the side with his property management company. I was inspecting property, and as well as making a few extra dollars, I was given a car which he also let me use to get to my Bible studies. I wasn’t golfing anymore as I was enjoying my new regular Bible Worker ministry with two side jobs. Remember I entered 2015 with $10,000.00 in credit card debt? Well on the day before Thanksgiving that year, I paid off my last credit card, and woke up Thanksgiving morning with a zero balance on all my credit cards. What a Thanksgiving! It was truly a miracle that began with me losing my job, I lost my job and turned around and paid off all my credit cards!
Of course I could not keep up with two side jobs and my regular Bible Worker ministry, but God provided them long enough to get me out of debt.
I must share a miracle that happened the following year. My mother was dying and I needed to make an emergency flight home which was very expensive, plus I would be missing work. I prayed and told God I did not want to go into debt again but needed to be there for my family. I told God I was going to be faithful to my family whatever the consequences. I shared a simple message on Facebook that I was going home because my mother was dying. I wrote and implied nothing more. That evening a Facebook friend from Texas messaged me she was sending me a monetary gift. That gift paid for my emergency plane tickets both ways. It covered my time off work. It helped pay my share of funeral expenses with some left over which I put into savings!
I now only have one credit card which I transfer money from my bank to pay off as soon as the transactions are made. I don’t wait till the end of the month. I love seeing that zero balance on my card all month long! I am careful with my money. I don’t feel inferior to people who have more money than me. I don’t have any problems saying I don’t have the money to do something. It is not embarrassing to me. I am very thankful for the miracle God provided to get me out of credit card debt. Now when I return tithe and offerings it is actually my first fruits. It is actually my money that I earned from that very paycheck.
Remember in my last article how I shared how cool I thought it was that my dad could just spontaneously buy a new softball glove? Well a few months ago my car up and died. I was not expecting that. It turned out to be my battery. A friend jumped my car and I went to an auto parts store where I bought and had a new battery installed. I paid cash. Instead of being upset that I had an unexpected repair bill, I drove away from the parts store, feeling pretty good. A spontaneous bill already paid for! Thank you Jesus!